Marjorie Kamys Cotera / Texas Tribune
Following through on a months-old promise, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a lawsuit Tuesday to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, leading a seven-state coalition against an Obama-era immigration measure that protects hundreds of thousands of immigrants nationwide from deportation, including more than 120,000 in Texas.
Paxton first threatened in June 2017 to sue over the program if President Donald Trump’s administration had not ended it by September. After federal court rulings blocked the Trump administration's efforts to end the program, Paxton wrote in January that he would consider filing suit if DACA still stood in June.
But a recent ruling in favor of DACA seems to have shifted up Paxton’s timeline. The announcement comes exactly a week after a federal judge in Washington, D.C. ordered the Trump administration to continue the program and reopen it to new applicants. That was the third – and by far the strongest – rebuke of Trump's efforts to rescind the program. Judges in California and New York had previously ordered the administration to renew work permits for immigrants enrolled in the program.
In March, a judge in Maryland came down on the other side of the issue, ruling that Trump has the authority to wind down the program.
“Our lawsuit is about the rule of law, not the wisdom of any particular immigration policy,” Paxton said in a press release. “Texas has argued for years that the federal executive branch lacks the power to unilaterally grant unlawfully present aliens lawful presence and work authorization.”
DACA, a program created in 2012 by President Barack Obama, gives immigrants who were brought to the United States by their parents as children renewable, two-year work permits and protection from deportation. DACA recipients – often called “Dreamers” –praise the program for giving them reprieve from the fear of deportation, and allowing them to pursue educational and vocational goals in the country they grew up in.
Liberal groups and lawmakers quickly condemned Paxton’s lawsuit, with State Rep. Rafael Anchia calling it “not only bad policy, it’s bad politics.”
“Instead of wasting taxpayer funds to pick on these Americans without status, the Attorney General should join the bipartisan chorus calling on Congress to fix a broken immigration system that denies these kids their rightful place at the American table,” said Anchia, a Dallas Democrat who chairs the Mexican American Legislative Caucus.
Ending the program would cost Texas more than 100,000 workers and nearly billions of dollars in GDP losses, MALC said in a press release. Ending DACA will lead to "the separation of countless families," said Cristina Tzintzun, the founder of Jolt Texas, a new group working to mobilize young Latino voters.
Paxton warned Tuesday that conceding the presidential power to establish a program like DACA sets a dangerous precedent that could allow executives to “ignore the will of the people” and set their own policies on a long list of policy points. Paxton also criticized “activist judges” in federal court for keeping in place an “unconstitutional” law.
Texas has had success in the past with suing to block liberal immigration policies. After Texas and 25 other states sued to end the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents program – a similar measure that protected nearly 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation – the program was enjoined and never went into effect.
The lawsuit does not ask the government to remove any immigrants currently in the country with DACA protections, but does ask that it stop issuing or renewing any DACA permits in the future.
Paxton said the lawsuit was filed Tuesday afternoon around 3 p.m. in the border town of Brownsville. Paxton’s office had informed the U.S. Department of Justice hours earlier that it planned to file suit.
He said he wasn’t sure how the federal government would respond to the lawsuit, but insisted “it’s about the rule of law, and we assume always that President Trump is in support of the rule of law.”
The other states involved are Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, South Carolina and West Virginia.